The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, a support organization formed three decades ago to forge an ongoing relationship between Kansas City and the famed choreographer, now has a cushion of $1 million to move ahead with a range of initiatives.
The year began auspiciously for the organization when it received a $375,000 matching grant from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. It was the largest grant in the nonprofit organization’s history and was designed to fund a five-year development plan.
Then Sara and Bill Morgan, former Kansas Citians who now live in Houston, issued a second challenge grant of $125,000. That, too, was matched, bringing funding to $1 million.
The matching donations for each grant came in various amounts from across the community. In all, 154 donors contributed from $46 to $50,000.
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The money, according to the organization, will fund a series of symposiums and panel discussions about culture, diversity and the arts. The first was in September. Participants included Cleo Parker Robinson, founder and artistic director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble in Denver; Joan Myers Brown, founder of the Philadelphia Dance Company; and Ann Williams, founder of Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
Ailey, who died in 1989, founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 1958. It began as a small company based in New York and embarked on what Ailey once described as low-budget “station wagon tours.”
The company eventually became internationally recognized, touring South America, Africa and Europe, and was known for its contribution to modern dance. One of its most famous dancers was Judith Jamison, a choreographer who eventually became the company’s artistic director.
The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey maintains a strong emphasis on education, offering dance instruction through year-round programs such as the nationally respected AileyCamp.
In addition to the symposiums, the five-year plan includes establishing a summer festival described as “part international dance performances and part block party”; a national competition for “aspiring high school arts visionaries”; and a community outreach program called “Ailey in Your Neighborhood,” designed to “bring the Ailey magic to schools, stores and streets — one neighborhood at a time.”